The Buddha’s Advice on Success: What We Can Do for Ourselves and Others Too
Disclaimer: This article is an opinion of the writer who wishes to share with general readers his knowledge and experience in Buddhism and concerned scientific researches.
What is Success?
Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines success as having achieved something that you want and have been trying to do or get, becoming rich or famous, or attaining a high social position.
The Buddha’s Words on Success
The Buddha gave much importance to success in life. He had a lot of advice for this purpose. For example, he said, as quoted in books BuddhaDhamma, the Law of Nature and Their Benefits to Life and The Nectar of Truth, A Selection of Buddhist Aphorisms, both written by a Thai Buddhist monk P.A. Payutto:
“The Tathagata [Buddha) can but point the way; your responsibility is to bring perseverance to fulfilment.”
“A man should cling to his hope; a wise man should not be discouraged;
I have realized this for myself – whatever I desire I obtain.”
“By exertion one overcomes suffering.”
“Plough ahead without feeling discouraged, and your objective will be accomplished as wished.”
“Hasten to put forth effort today; death may come tomorrow, who knows?”
“Carry out your responsibilities in preparation for the future:
Let not those tasks oppress you when they no longer can be postponed.”
“All profit is founded on two things: obtaining the unacquired and protecting the acquired.”
“Whatsoever families, Monks, attain great wealth and last a long time, all of them do so because of these four reasons or one or other of them, namely, they seek for what is lost, repair the worn, consume in moderation, and put in authority a virtuous woman or man.”
“Indulgence leads to heedlessness, heedlessness to degeneracy, and degeneracy to calamity.”
“I will bestow honor and wealth to the worthy, and support spouse, relatives and fellow citizens; this is the duty of a wise person.”
“I have realized, Monks, [the value of] two things: not to be content with good states of mind so far achieved, and to be unremitting in the struggle for the goal…. Through diligence have I won enlightenment, through diligence have I won unsurpassed security from bondage.”
“Therefore, with the remainder of your lives, carefully attend to your duties.”
“A man should keep on striving until his goal is achieved.”
Where does Success Originate?
Success is said to originate in the brain or the mind.
The Buddha was quoted as saying in Dhammapada Verses 11 and 12, which Ven. Weragoda Sarada Thero paraphrased in Treasury of Truth Illustrated Dhammapada P. 25 that our sense of values or views is what gives direction to our lives. The richness and purity of our lives depend on our sense of values or views. In fact, our judgement of superiority and inferiority and our happiness and sense of achievement, are also dependent on this sense of values and views. Those who have a wrong understanding of values or wrong views have wrong aspirations, and they never attain the true riches of life. But those who have a right understanding of values or right views have right aspirations, and they always attain the true riches of life.
Napolean Hill is quoted in Famous Quotes About Success to Inspire You Today: “The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
Tom Bissonette MSW, LMSW, Ret. said in the article “What Is Success?” headline, “‘Failure’ and ‘success’ do not exist outside the human mind.”
Trevor Oldham said in the article “The Psychology Of Success As Told By These 5 Entrepreneurs” that “You can never become successful if you don’t have the right mindset.
The right mindset cures everything. It will determine if you’re successful or if you’re unsuccessful. It will tell you that you’re a failure and you should just give up or that you’re on the right track to success. Which voice are you listening too?”
How do the Buddha’s Advice and Meditation Help to Attain Success?
In life – in our life – it seems that we have to “have” a right sense of values or views, desire and determination, and then keep on striving until our goal is achieved.
The Buddha is quoted as saying in BuddhaDhamma, the Law of Nature and Their Benefits to Life and The Nectar of Truth, A Selection of Buddhist Aphorisms:
“Do not let the day pass in vain – accomplish something, great or small.”
“A man should promptly embark on doing what he knows is beneficial to his own life.”
“One should make a genuine effort to do what one will do.”
“Do not let it pressure you when comes the time to do it.”
“For a man working hard night and day, without being torpid, every day is called a lucky day.”
“Goodness passes fools by, those who count on auspicious signs. Auspiciousness is intrinsic to goodness itself; what can the stars and constellations accomplish?”
“Whenever a good deed is done, that moment is called a propitious moment, an auspicious time, a good morning, a bright sunrise.”
“Any occasion when one does good is called truly propitious and auspicious, a happy daybreak, a joyful dawn, a precious moment, and a blissful hour.”
“Benefit is the auspicious moment of itself. What could the star do?”
“It is better to look before you leap.”
“If one does slowly what should be done slowly, and urgently what should be done urgently, the desired result will thus be completely accomplished.”
“One should not strive for what is unbeneficial.”
“He will accomplish his task, emerging absolutely victorious, who acts with appraisal, fully aware of his own strength, and then gets carefully prepared by following textbook models, by consultation, and by words well spoken.”
“Whether it is cold or hot, whether it is windy or sunny,
whether there are gnats or mosquitoes,
he who is unperturbed, who is undaunted by hunger or thirst,
who keeps on working night and day,
and who does not let go of a benefit when occasion arises,
is favored by lady luck;
lady luck will reside with him.”
“Householder, there are these five things that are desirable, enticing, agreeable, and difficult to obtain in the world. What five? Long life … beauty … happiness … fame … heaven…. These five things … I say, are not obtained by means of prayer or ambition. If these five things … could be obtained by means of prayer and ambition, who here would be lacking in anything?”
“You should promptly do the deed you know leads to your own wellbeing.”
We should also strive with the right sense of feeling of “happiness in working”. Do it, and try to develop this positive feeling, instead of letting negative feeling overcome you while working.
“Neither grief nor lamentation offers any gain;
And enemies rejoice to see our grief and pain.
But sages, skilled in discrimination,
Do not tremble in the face of misfortune.
Seeing the sage’s face unchanged and as before,
Rather his enemies are pained.
Wherever and however one gains the good,
By discourse, consultation, or well-worded speech,
By gifts or by customs rightly kept,
Make effort here with just these means.
And if he knows that a desired end is out of reach,
Both for oneself and for others,
One should not grief, but rather halt
And with firm resolve enquire:
‘How should I now proceed.’
The Buddha also showed the Paths to Success (Pali: Iddhipada) that comprise will power, effort, consciousness, and wisdom.
Winston Churchill is quoted in Famous Quotes About Success to Inspire You Today, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm,” and “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Meditation – the act of giving one’s attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed, particularly Mindfulness Meditation – is found to be helpful in building willpower. It is said in the article How Meditation Builds Willpower, Self-Control, & Discipline that after imaging the brains of new meditators before and after an 8-week mindfulness course, Italian neuroscientists (Tomasino et al) made a number of amazing discoveries. Among their findings, the meditators fortified their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(es).… the willpower region of the brain.…Through the incredible power of neuroplasticity, meditation helps you “do the things you don’t really want to do but know you need to’. From exercising more, to eating better, to kicking bad habits, to learning new skills, to achieving your dream(s), meditation’s “inner-strength” magnification improves your life on all levels.
Successful People usually Find Meditation Helpful
There are a lot of meditation practitioners worldwide. But here I’d like to mention only two personalities.
Bill Gates has written an article in 2018, “Why I’m into meditation” in GatesNotes. As a beginner, he meditated two or three times a week, for about 10 minutes each time. He gained peace of mind.
Yuval Noah Harari, an experienced meditator, is quoted in the article Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, on how meditation made him a better historian written by Ezra Klein that apart from meditating every morning for two hours before doing anything else, Harari also practices Vipassana meditation – which includes a 60-day silent retreat each year. Meditation helps him to focus better and to learn the difference between fiction and reality, what is real and what is just stories that we invent and construct in our own minds.
Further reading and watching
– Buddha Quotes on Success at https://bit.ly/3jnrKho
– Buddha’s 10 Rules of Success at https://bit.ly/3aZmR9W
– A Brief Introduction to Buddha-Dhamma by Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto at https://bit.ly/3m0DuZ6
– The Nectar of Truth, A Selection of Buddhist Aphorisms by Bhikkhu P.A. Payutto at https://bit.ly/3jiZz3i
– Yuval Noah Harari on Vipassana, Reality, Suffering, & Consciousness at https://bit.ly/3vz4wdh
– The Secret to Success – an eye opening story at https://bit.ly/3poz3ti
– The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Summary at https://bit.ly/2ZjRWTk
Paitoon Songkaeo, PhD